‘Hansel and Gretel’ needs bread crumbs to find a point
Published: Monday, January 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, January 28, 2013 21:01
Out of the 12 months of the film release calendar, the January slate is almost always the weakest. It’s the place executives like to stick their smaller films that probably won’t find an audience, as well as some bigger ones that ran into some trouble during production and were pretty much unsalvageable.
Such is the case with “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters,” The latest “grimdark” adaptation of a classical story, which Paramount delayed for 10 months while they attempted, poorly, to get it into working order. This unfunny and boring action comedy never becomes compelling despite throwing everything it can at the problem, failing its characters, its story and its overall result. In other words, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a movie called “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.”
The film opens with the famous fairy tale: the kids get left in the woods, find a candy house, a witch catches them, they kill her. End of story? Not here. In this “fractured fairytale,” Hansel and Gretel get bloodlust after killing their adversary and want more, traveling throughout the medieval countryside hunting down witches, elaborate silver shotguns in tow.
“Hansel and Gretel” has a tragic flaw. It tries to be two films at once. The bland action and abhorrent dialogue infer that the film’s trying to be a silly-but-serious actioner in the vein of recent fantasy trash like the “Underworld” series, but at the same time, “funny” anachronisms (missing-child parchment sheets on milk bottles) and jokes at the expense of the genre imply it’s trying to be a parody of overly serious fare… like the “Underworld” series. As you can imagine, this boils down to the film parodying itself, which makes the whole thing just feel like a waste of 90 minutes.
Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton play the titular sibling duo. It’s obvious they both took the job for the paycheck, as they must have received a decent cut of its $50 million budget. Luckily, there’s only one scene that implies incest, which is actually pretty good for a film of this quality. Their main adversary is Famke Janssen’s evil witch, a hammy role with “Power Rangers” makeup. While she’s terrible, it’s not her fault, as everyone in the film is. And at least she admitted she needed the job to pay off her mortgage.
The thing is, this is a film where anything goes depending on how it affects the story. For instance, Hansel must give himself injections every few hours, he says, because he was poisoned by a witch as a child. But it’s never explained what the injections are, where he gets them, how he has them, how he discovered his illness, or why it suddenly goes away at the end of the film. There are many, many other examples of nonsensical filmmaking in “Hansel and Gretel,” and it never rises to a level even close to acceptability. Honestly, it’s hard to even remember much about the film, which is worse than if it were notably bad; instead, it’s just instantly forgettable.